Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image

Daily Telegraph: The poorly travelled need not apply

Daily Telegraph (UK): The poorly travelled need not apply

(Filed: 12/05/2005)

Globetrotting has become the norm as more firms seek managers with international experience, writes Lucie Carrington

If you want to get on, you need to get out, according to a report from The Daily Telegraph/Cranfield School of Management Recruitment Confidence Index.

The survey suggests that cross-cultural experience is becoming the norm for ambitious managers as a growing number of UK firms seek out senior people with international business experience.

Nearly half the organisations responding (42 per cent) say they have increased their international recruitment over the past five years. And nearly one in five (18 per cent) say the number of staff leaving to work abroad has also increased in that time. In addition, 20 per cent expect their senior managers to have spent time overseas.

“Long-term assignments, short-term assignments and international commuting are all on the increase,” says Michael Dickmann, director of Cranfield’s Centre for Research into the Management of Expatriation.

“It’s not just globalisation that is driving increased mobility among top managers, although that is a major factor. The explosion of knowledge and learning, and the desire to develop leaders for the future are also encouraging firms to expatriate and repatriate skills.”

Most of the talent flow is between developed countries with a big emphasis on Europe and the European Union.

Over the past year nearly one in three firms have recruited in France and Ireland, and just over one in four have recruited in Germany. About one five has also recruited in North America and Asia.

Patterns of expatriation are changing, says Dr Dickmann: “European travel is becoming commonplace for many managers. So, increasingly firms are reserving cross-continental experience, which offers the more dramatic cultural change, for their really high potential people.”

Recruitment consultants have also noticed the increase in international recruitment. Executive search firm Torres and Partners says its international work has risen fourfold in the past five years and now amounts to about 45 per cent of all its business.

“We haven’t exactly planned it this way; it’s been driven by our clients,” says Alison Diamond, a director with the firm. “It could be UK clients expanding overseas or companies with an overseas base who want to recruit in their home market.

Occasionally it is companies coming into the UK to establish businesses here. The survey shows that firms are not looking for international talent for the sake of it. Mostly they are seeking technical skills, language ability and market knowledge.

“For example, more than three in four employers recruiting abroad (78 per cent) say the availability of technical skills is significant in their decision to hire or move people overseas. And nearly two in three (61 per cent) cite language skills. Only one in five says they recruit internationally to save on labour costs.

Ms Diamond says: ‘Whatever their reasons for recruiting internationally, employers are still playing the same game. They are looking for the best talent to make them more competitive.”

But it is not just employer demand that is pushing managers abroad. Managers want it too and recruitment consultants point out that inquiries from job hunters looking for foreign adventure have rocketed.

The ease with which we can move around Europe and our willingness to travel further afield for holidays have made us more open to working outside our geographical comfort zones.

This fits with the experience at Barclays. Expanding international interests are putting it under pressure to develop international talent, but increasingly its young managers are expecting opportunities to live and work overseas.

Kathryn Wainwright, director of talent management at Barclays, says: “Managers are increasingly asking us for international experience and we will find it harder to retain them if we don’t offer it.”

However, the nature of overseas assignments has changed massively at the bank and expatriate appointments are no longer end-of-career jollies for long-serving managers.

Ms Wainwright says: “If we are going to succeed in new markets, we need our best people to go there. And there’s work to be done.”

The fat expat reward packages have disappeared too but the bank is fostering much more flexibility around overseas assignments. It has managers living in the UK but working, for example, out of South Africa. They spend the week travelling around the continent, returning home to the UK at weekends.

Oil firm Shell International has also seen overseas assignments become more fluid.

For starters international business managers don’t have to be sitting down the corridor from their teams any more, says David Pappie, global manager of attraction and recruitment. They can be 5,000 miles away and only meet up twice a year but still be in constant contact through phone, email or video conferencing.

“A fundamental change we are seeing is that more global roles doesn’t mean people have to move around more,” Mr Pappie says.

Increased international recruitment means bigger and brighter opportunities for UK managers but it will also bring more competition as firms look to import talent. This is already happening at graduate level. Both Shell and construction firm Tarmac have started targeting international students, including those in UK universities. These are young people who have the right technical skills and have already proven their mobility and ability to work internationally.

Richard Pooley, a partner with the language and cultural training firm Canning, believes things will get harder for British graduates if they don’t wake up to what’s happening around them.

“There are some extremely good young British managers. But increasingly I’m seeing equally good people coming from overseas who are also able to work outside their native countries,” Mr Pooley says. “To compete today a British manager needs to add to his portfolio a second language and international experience.” and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

0 Comments on “Daily Telegraph: The poorly travelled need not apply”

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: